“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:7-11).
The first church I pastored was a small, country church in Nocona, Texas with salt-of-the-earth folks, who knew how to do a great many things with very little. They measured time differently than I had seen. Instead of counting seconds, minutes, and hours, they counted events, seasons, and years.
They even had different seasons than I was used to: plowing, planting, harvesting, and canning. At the start of plowing season, Byron would drive his tractor around the county and plow acres for people. During planting season most of the members would miss church a good bit as they were filling their farms (anything under an acre was just a garden) with plants and seeds that would produce that year’s treasured harvest.
As soon as the fruits and vegetables started to ripen, harvest season began. Canning season followed immediately after the harvest had begun. As the men brought in the crops, the women would put up the produce in jars to store for the coming year – and whatever they couldn’t use, they gave away to families, friends, neighbors, and the pastor.
Between planting and harvest, there was a time when not much was going on. Of course, in the country something always needs repairing or replacing. So, there’s really no down time. Still, folks would wait for the plants to come up. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to make the plants produce any more, or faster, than they would. So, people just waited – not frantically, worriedly, or hurriedly. The crops were in God’s hands. Whatever He gave them would be fine.
Harvest and canning were a different game – Everyone jumped into high gear and set Olympic records in okra, tomatoes, green beans, and onions – but during the wait, life slowed to a near halt. Of course, we prayed for the crops – they were the life of the community. Getting upset wouldn’t produce a single ear of corn. Worry never caused one bell pepper to sprout sooner.
Truth is, no one just waited. They prayed and did other things. They used the time to catch up on other chores they couldn’t get to the rest of the year, because as soon as the harvest was ready, there’d be no time for anything else. But as they waited, they watched to see what kind of harvest the Lord would provide.
Here’s the lesson about patience: we aren’t just waiting for someone else in line, or for the light to change. We’re waiting to see what kind of harvest the Lord will provide in us. To borrow from the parable of the sower, will we yield thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold?
Patience is the calming of our hearts while we wait for something. It’s intentionally resting in the Lord as we watch for change. Patience is threatened when we look to the temporal and immediate instead of seeing the eternal and the spiritual. When we adjust our vision to set our hearts on things above where Christ is, patience is born in us.
Remember Job? He learned that God was doing many things he could never see or comprehend. Just because we don’t know what God is doing, doesn’t mean He isn’t working in our situation. Faith leads us to trust in God’s providence even when He seems to be absent.
May God grant His children the eyes to see that “the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”